Enhancing Tree Transplant Success Through the Manipulation of Root Hydraulic Conductance

2017 | Nina Bassuk, PhD, Cornell University  

The production of diverse, highly desirable tree species is limited by transplanting success. Successful transplanting of nursery stock is determined by a tree’s ability to respond to transplant shock, a function of disrupted and reduced water uptake. While multiple factors including species, plant size, xylem anatomy, root anatomy, and root morphology may influence the efficiency of water uptake, root morphology is one component that can be artificially manipulated in the nursery. Purposeful root pruning was once a common nursery practice that fell out of fashion with the advent of the tree spade. Root pruning, a method of severing tree roots with the aim of promoting root regeneration at or near the wound site, typically results in increased root branching. It is unknown, however, if these newly emerged roots have greater hydraulic conductance efficiency. We plan to manipulate root growth to increase the rate and efficiency of water uptake, resulting in a production practice that can increase a tree’s ability to respond to transplant shock, resulting in greater transplant success and ultimately greater tree species diversity in the nursery industry.